SciSurfer: real-time search on journal articles

May 5th, 2010 by jose

Imagine a world where real-time search is the norm. You will get just the information you seek landing on your lap the exact minute it becomes available, without you having to explicitly search for it. Will this change the way you do science? SciSurfer thinks it will.

The release cycle of scientific knowledge is slow. It may take up to 2 years for a paper to get accepted in a journal. The publishing process in itself will add a buffer of a few months (arguably because of the time cost of having a paper edition, even though most people will never use it). So, for some of us, it doesn’t feel like we are missing much if we do not get the latest updates on our field the very same minute they are published. Just going to conferences yearly feels like more than enough. But there is a portion of the academia that needs constant updates on their field, as close to real-time as possible. If you are in the life sciences, getting the latest paper about a molecule or a gene you work on before your competitor does may make or break your career.

For those academics, sciSurfer may be a very valuable tool. The basic idea of sciSurfer is to integrate all journal feeds and search over them. Note that they do not archive RSS, so only the latest articles are available. This is a different way to think about search, closer to twitter’s than to Google’s.


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CourseRank: An algorithm that helps students choose the right courses

April 6th, 2010 by jose

I’m not sure how big of a problem selecting classes is for students, and how much it can be automated, but now there’s a tool specifically solving this problem. CourseRank tracks scheduling conflicts, together with some other Interesting features. For example, it gathers course/professor reviews, workload estimations and aggregates questions and answers.

Right now the selection of universities is not that great. It makes sense since the service is specifically tailored to each university, so I can imagine the implementation can take a while.


Scientific Publishing and Web 2.0 survey: Call for participants

March 17th, 2010 by dario

Judith Simon and Diego Ponte from the LiquidPub project are seeking participants for a a survey about scientific publishing and the Web 2.0.

The aim of the survey is to gauge the potential acceptance of a Web 2.0 inspired production and dissemination of scientific publications by different scientific communities and by practitioners. The survey is hence tailored for researchers in all domains as well as for people working in the publishing industry.

Judith promised to report back on the results of the survey :)

Paperpile: A new kid on the block

March 17th, 2010 by dario

The first public beta of Paperpile–the latest entry in the crowded arena of free reference management software–has been recently announced. As I write, a test version is available for Linux, but Mac and Windows versions should be released soon. From the screenshots gallery, it looks like Paperpile will feature a streamlined (although quite typical) 3-column interface, support for tags/labels as well as the standard Web import functionality from online bibliographic databases.

paperpile screenshot

It will be interesting to see how this software compares with cross-platform biggies such as Mendeley or established tools for specific environments such as BibDesk or JabRef.

Tenure denial starts shooting, kills three. Columbine in the academia?

February 14th, 2010 by jose

This is a quick note that may not surprise most people. Amy Bishop, at University of Alabama  Huntsville, just killed three colleagues and injured some more. It seems that this act may be related to having been denied tenure.  A PhD from Harvard, Amy Bishop had grants, and sat in a startup board, which are traces of a successful academic career. She was also a mother of four. Can your academic job environment be so toxic as to motivate murder? She was possibly suffering major depression at the time of the incident, and other mental health issues.

The evidence that an academic career is too stressing is piling up. An academic deals with rejection very often, from both peers and students, gets paid like a boy scout, and works every waking hour. This should be a waking call to all academics that feel tenure is the center of their lives.

A Previous Shooting Death at the Hands of Alabama Suspect –

UPDATE: removed wrong photo.